Corporate Storytelling: Why businesses get retirement wrong

Corporate Storytelling: Why businesses get retirement wrong

What does your business do when an employee is retiring?

Do you throw a party or get together for your employee to celebrate their time at the company? The answer for most companies is sometimes although we’ve found that less and less companies are doing this today. Maybe you give your employee a plaque or gold watch with a handshake that say’s good job and thank you for your service. What about an exit interview to make sure those valuable documents and passwords are transferred? Finally, do you ever ask your employees what valuable knowledge they learned while working at the company and what knowledge they would want other employees to know?

Over the last 12 months, Pass It Down’s been working with companies across three continents to help businesses collect and share the valuable knowledge of their employees. What we’ve discovered is that the majority of companies are letting their most valuable knowledge and resource, their senior employees, walk out the door without ever transferring their knowledge. 

What Is Knowledge Transfer?

In organizational theory, knowledge transfer is the practical problem of transferring knowledge from one part of the organization to another. Like knowledge management, knowledge transfer seeks to organize, create, capture or distribute knowledge and ensure its availability for future users. At Pass It Down, we believe knowledge transfer is broader as we find it also includes the culture within an organization.

Stop Throwing Your Knowledge Away

When an organization fails to transfer their knowledge they are setting themselves up for failure. If a founder fails to transfer the “why” behind the company’s founding, the mission and culture of the company are suddenly put at risk. If a senior employee, with a rolodex of contacts in their head, fails to pass on that tribal knowledge the company foots the bill when new, less-experienced, employees have to take time and effort to figure out what to do. In the mid-1990s, Delta learned this lesson the hard way when they cut senior mechanics to save costs. The result: rampant flight delays, cancellations, angry customers, and a decrease in revenue.

We ask companies we work with four questions about retirement:

  1. How many employees do you have that will retire this year?
  2. How much money and time have you invested in these employees?
  3. How many years of experience are walking out your door?
  4. What are you doing to retain their knowledge?

How would you answer these four questions?


About The Author: Chris Cummings is the Founder & CEO of Pass It Down, a storytelling agency that helps organizations around the world collect and preserve their knowledge and stories.